Tiny PIC Clock is Not a Tiny Bomb

It’s been a few weeks since the incident where Ahmed Mohamed, a student, had one of his inventions mistaken for a bomb by his school and the police, despite the device clearly being a clock. We asked for submissions of all of your clock builds to show our support for Ahmed, and the latest one is the tiniest yet but still has all of the features of a full-sized clock (none of which is explosions).

[Markus]’s tiny clock uses a PIC24 which is a small yet powerful chip. The timekeeping is done on an RTCC peripheral, and the clock’s seven segment displays are temporarily lit when the user presses a button. Since the LEDs aren’t on all the time, and the PIC only consumes a few microamps on standby, the clock can go for years on a single charge of the small lithium-ion battery in the back. There’s also a phototransistor which dims the display in the dark, and a white LED which could be used as a small flashlight in a pinch. If these features and the build technique look familiar it’s because of [Markus’] tiny MSP430 clock which he was showing around last year.

Both of his tiny clocks are quite impressive for their size, features, and power consumption. Some of the other clocks we’ve featured recently include robot clocks, clocks for social good, and clocks that are not just clocks (but still won’t explode). We’re suckers for a good clock project here, so keep sending them in!

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A Single-Chip Video Game Console

Ready to feel inadequate with your programming skills? You’ve been warned. Take a look at [Voja’s] single chip video game console using the PIC24. It produces the VGA signal, 5-channel sound, and is presented in a gamepad form-factor with directional pad and two buttons.

He’s been working with PIC24 for a while now generating VGA signals, and he decided it might be fun to create a 2D video game… so he decided to see if he could program a replica of the old Spectrum game Jumping Jack (play it online here).

It uses a PIC24EP512GP202 microcontroller, complete with 512K flash memory, 48k data, and a whopping 28-pins. The game, which is extremely well documented, is laid out over on his projects page. It makes our heads spin just looking at it! This is a great project to compare with the ArduinoCade from last week. Both do an amazing job of pumping out audio and video while leaving enough room for the game to actually run.

Anyway, enough talking about it — just take a look at the following demo!

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Get Your Kicks With this New PIC Development board

While development boards for micro controllers are nothing ground breaking, they can be expensive, and often times overkill for what you’re doing when they try to put everything you might use … including the kitchen sink. when [Brian] noticed his projects were starting to use Microchip PIC24 more and more, the time came to have a dev board on hand. 

top-viewThe result is a small board with breakouts for USB, UART (via FTDI), of course tons of GPIO pins, and a socket which mates with a daughter board to swap out either a PIC24FJ128GC006, or a DSPIC33EP256MU806, with the potential for more. Also packed on the board is a power regulator system and dual crystals allowing full speed operation or power sipping modes.

Schematics and PCB layout are available (in Diptrace format) along with a board template file to use with MPLAB on github.com. Once you have everything together you will need a PIC programmer, [Brian] is using a trusty Microchip MPLAB ICD 3 programmer, but naturally, others are available.

Microchip recently announced a new development board of their own for the PIC16F series. The Curiosity board has built-in support for programming and debugging (no chipKIT needed). The engineer who designed that board, [John Mouton] is going to join us on July 30th for a live chat about the design process. We’re also going to be giving away some of the first boards to come off the production line… more about that this coming week.

The Worst E-Reader Ever


Over on the Projects site, [Jaromir] has created a tiny device with an OLED display, three buttons, and a USB port for storing text files, be it for saving a shopping list, a cheat sheet, or the most unusable e-reader ever made.

The front of the device is simply a 96×32 pixel OLED and three buttons for ‘up’, ‘down’, and ‘open/close’. The reverse side is where the magic happens with a PIC24 microcontroller that sets up a file system on the chip, allowing [Jaromir] to write 64kB of data on what is actually a Flash drive with a pitiful capacity. Text files are viewable on the OLED, with the video below showing the front page of Wikipedia being displayed in a glorious 16×4 text mode.

It’s not a very useful device by any means, but for some reason it’s garnered a lot of skulls and followers over on Hackaday Projects. In response to that, [Jaromir] is working on version two with a new PCB and a design for a 3D printed case. Not bad for what [Jaromir] himself describes as worse than just about any phone or tablet.

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Automated Paintball Sentry

Reader, [Ben Godding], sends in the video for his senior design team’s automated paintball sentry. The frame is made of plasma cut aluminum. The paintball gun uses a custom hopper mounted remotely from the gun body. It has two webcams offering a 160 degree field of vision, and the image processing is done by a dual core pentium CPU booting windows xp off a compact flash card. The computer interfaces with the 1/4scale RC servos using a PIC24. The paintball sentry can either be configured via a computer GUI when a monitor is available or a baclkit keypad and 4×20 charachter display in the field.

Related: [Jared Bouck]’s paintball gun turret

Programmable scientific calculator watch

When the band support on [David]’s Casio CFX-400 Scientific Calculator Watch finally broke after 10 years of use, he found it almost impossible to find another watch with the same functionality. Like any good engineer, [David] decided to design a watch to meet his needs. The result of his endeavors was the µWatch, a programmable watch based on a PIC24 with both RPN and Algebraic calculation modes. The watch runs open source software and is expandable thanks to a serial port, an ICSP programming port, and a spot for an infrared LED on the board. On his site, [David] shows how he made the first µWatch and offers kits for anyone who wants to build their own. We’ve been told that the next batch of kits will be made available in 1-2 weeks and are expected to sell out fast.

[Thanks Tomesz]